Check out our advent calendar below!
Your Students’ Union are delighted to bring you our Housing Advent! Packed full of ideas to help you understand your rights and your responsibilities of renting your own home.
The calendar aims to guide you through the sometimes difficult issues, for example when things aren’t going well with your landlord and you need to complain.
Remember to always approach your landlord or letting agent in the first instance, if something isn’t right so that you give them the opportunity to make good. If this doesn’t work there are a number of things you can do. We’ll tell you about them in our Advent calendar, so keep watching this space daily!
To sweeten your holiday period we invite you to enter into our prize draw, when we will name one lucky winner in January.
The Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) gives tenants and landlords information on the energy efficiency of their property. It gives the building a standard energy and carbon emission efficiency grade from ‘A’ to ‘G’, where ‘A’ is the most efficient. From the 1st April 2018, there will be a requirement for any property rented out to have a minimum energy performance rating of E. If your property is currently less than E, part of your EPC report will list the potential rating that the building could achieve with a few recommendations on how to do it. You can read more about the EPC regulations https://www.rla.org.uk/landlord/guides/minimum-energy-efficiency-standards.shtml>here.
The certificate has an ‘A’ to ‘G’ rating system, ‘A’ symbolising the best and ‘G’ the poorest level of energy efficiency. The average rating for a property in the UK is D or above, so if you wish to minimise your costs then you should seek accommodation which is rated D or above. It is always a good idea to ask to see the certificate when you view a property, and before you decide to sign contracts, so that you know how energy efficient the property is and whether you can save money.
The EPC will also provide you with a list of options on what can be done to minimise the use of energy making it more energy efficient. We recommend that you ask your landlord to carry out the ‘low cost’ measures. Poorly insulated or hard-to heat properties will be less energy sufficient and can end up costing you a lot in energy bills and heating. So even if the amount you will pay on rent is less than elsewhere, you may end up paying more on fuel.
If you’re unsure whether your home has a good energy rating, why not ask your landlord to see the EPC certificate, and check for yourself. You could save money on energy by working with your landlord to improve your home’s EPC rating.
As a tenant it is important that you acknowledge that you have rights but also responsibilities for your accommodation and local community such a local residents and neighbors. The Students’ Union is working together with the University on improving the relationship between University of Brighton students and the local residents with projects such as the Vice Chancellors ‘One Street Brighton’ which is a projects unfolding some of the issues affecting the relationship between students and the local residents, looking in to how we can improve this.
The Union and the University are hosting a variety of different events to help facilitate space for students and local residents to better their relationships which you can take part in for example ‘Big lunches’, Christmas events and Easter get together’.
Further to this we encourage you volunteer in the local community or to just at least say ‘hi’ to your neighbour! Introducing yourself and being mindful to your neighbours will help you get on well.
Besides respecting your neighbours it is also important that you respect the property you are renting. There will be certain things that you will be in charge of as a tenant such as paying bills on time, ventilating the property to help stop condensation building up, locking doors and closing windows to keep the property safe, heating, respecting the landlords property already within your home, and cleaning the property at the end of your tenancy, not to mention keeping the garden tidy and grass cut.
There should be smoke alarms on each floor in your property and it is up to your landlord to make sure that this is complied with. Your landlord must follow safety regulations; provide smoke alarms on each story and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room with a solid fuel burning appliances. The landlord must also check that you have access to escape routes at all times, make sure all furniture is fire safe, and provide fire alarms and fire extinguishers if the property is a large house in a multi-occupational property.
However, it is important to remember that it is your responsibility to ensure that no smoking takes place within the property (this is usually part of the contract, but check to be sure) and that you turn of any appliances if going away for periods of time.
Mould is not only bad for your health, it also smells and looks horrible. If you do not clean it properly it always tends to find a way back and it can be the most frustrating thing to have to deal with.
Mould is not a classed as a severe health hazard; however, but it can harm you if it is just left.
It is important that you look back at the previous advice of looking at the EPC for the property which you are thinking of renting as this will give you an indication of the insulation, ventilation and energy proficiency of the property.
Mould is caused by high humidity in the property. Humidity is not damage itself, it’s the result of damage to the property. Depending on what caused the mould you landlord might be responsible for any repairs.
You can contact Environmental health if you need someone to come out and look at the property or if you wish to file a complaint https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/a-z/a-z-pages/environmental-health>here.
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By law, landlords must have all gas appliances serviced regularly, normally once a year by a Gas Safe registered engineer. The Gas Safe registered engineer will provide a Gas Safety record upon completion of the check. You should ensure that the landlord shows you a current (not more than 1 years old) Gas Safety Certificate when you move in or beforehand.
There are certain responsibilities of yourself as tenants as well as that of your landlord. Make sure you familiarise yourself with what you can expect from your landlord when you move in to your new property and what is your responsibility.
It is important that you keep yourself informed about what you can expect from your landlord and that you know what to do if you wish to make a formal complaint or are looking for advice and support.
It is expected that your landlord has checked that any tenant can legally rent within the UK, that all tenants are 18 years or older, that the property’s structure and exterior is up to standard. Repairs includes basins, sinks, baths, pipes, drains, heating, hot water, gas appliances, flues, ventilation, electrical wiring and any damage caused by attempting repairs.
Further to this it is usually the landlord who is responsible for repairing common areas. It is also the landlord’s responsibility to ensure the safety of gas, electrical and fire.
If you wish to make a complaint you either go to the Union, the accommodations services within the University or straight to your landlord through their complaints procedure.
The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 make your landlord responsible for repairing the structure and exterior of your home. The Housing Act 2004 makes it clear that ‘the structure and exterior of the property’ includes all outside walls, roof, external doors and windows.
The landlord is also responsible for the exterior of the property, the supply of water and the maintenance of the plumbing. Any damage they cause to the interior will also be a responsibility of the landlord. This refers to for example plumbing work, pipes leaking water, loose fitting, drains leaking water or if rubber seals and gaskets require replacement.
The number one issue between students and local residents can be anti-social behaviour and noise complaints.
It is possible to achieve a good relationship, by taking a few simple steps to better the understanding from both groups. For example by saying hi and introducing yourself to your neighbour and by getting involved with the local community, you will create friendships and relations which will increase the tolerance between you and your neighbour.
If you do not understand each other or do not wish to respect each others needs, incidents may occur.
Poor housing can lead to poor health and exacerbate existing health conditions. A warm, dry and secure home is associated with better health. Poor mental health caused by poor housing conditions can be a factor for poor physical health as well as depression. The lack of energy to get out and get going as well as cleaning the house and do grocery shopping can have a detrimental factor on the physical health of an individual.
Damp and condensation problems are the most commonly found issues in the British households. More than a third of all households (37%) report they have condensation issues. Damp in the property creates a thriving environment for the growth and of mould. In fact, households reporting mould are only slightly less (24%) than those reporting condensation problems.
Most often condensation and mould is a by-product of the tenant’s activities in the property. Many of the things we do in our daily routine produce steam or heat variances that cause condensation to accumulate in certain areas of the property. Once condensation settles on the surfaces, the water droplets soak inside. Repeated exposures can kick-start mould growing on the surface. It is therefore important to ensure that the property gets enough ventilation after showers, cooking, drying clothes indoors as well as your furniture needing air circulation.
When you leave your property for the holidays, make sure that you turn off all taps. The consequences can be devastating if you don’t as water can destroy most of your property if a tap is left over a number of days with no other occupants within the property. Let your landlord know that you will be out of the property for a substantial amount of time, so the landlord can check if you remember that you haven’t done so.
You can either give this to your local food bank or you can give any dried, sealed and in date food to your halls reception. For any fresh, but sealed food products, you can get in contact with your local homeless shelter that will most likely be able to make use of the products. Don’t just bin your food you can end up throwing out a lot which could benefit someone less fortunate, especially up to Christmas and when the weather is getting colder.
Most landlords will appreciate you telling them if you attend to leave the property for more than a week with no one physically within the property at this time. This is to ensure that your landlord does not contact you or expects you to be at the property within that timeframe, but it also allows your landlord to look after and ensure that your stuff is still safe and to look out for any suspicious behaviours near your property.
Following this, you can let your neighbour know to look out and contact your landlord if anything suspicious takes place whilst you’re away.
It’s Friday and the last day of term. Most of you will leave either today or over the weekend, so make sure you go through the advent calendar to ensure that you are all set to leave your property for the Christmas holiday.
Please don’t post anything on social media about where you live or the fact that you have left your property as this may be a clue to burglars breaking in to your property knowing that no one will be in. Some insurance companies do also not cover any break-ins if you have posted anything online beforehand.
Make sure you lock all doors and close all windows.
During the cold months, heating must be somewhat even throughout all the rooms. If you only heat the bedroom, while the kitchen stays unheated the temperature difference will produce condensation in the unheated room and mould will start to appear.
There is a much debate about whether or not you should set the radiators or central heating system to work all the time or only as or when needed to provide slight background heating.
It can however be very important that you leave the heating on low or on at certain times when you leave for Christmas. You may think that this is a waste of money, but the onus will be on you if your pipes get too cold and burst because you haven’t left the heating on when leaving the property for a longer period of time.
The big Christmas switch off is a campaign by the University's environmental team. The project is to encourage students and staff to help their project C-change cut carbon emission during the holiday period. If you want to find out more please have a look at: http://about.brighton.ac.uk/sustainability/campus/cchange/
It is important for you to remember to switch off before you leave for the holidays as it is good for the environment and your energy bill. It can end up costing you a fortune of unnecessary energy waste. If you sign up to the big switch off with C-Change the savings made on the energy bills will be put towards the university's Global Opportunities Scholarship Fund which supports refugee status students.
It doesn't matter if you are a student or not, it is always polite to say hi & introduce yourself to your neighbour.
This is the first step for you to create a relationship with your local community and a sign that many local residents will show that you do care and respect them. It will also give you an indication of who lives next door. Is it a family with young kids or is it an elderly couple? This may give you an indication of how to respect others around you by not playing load music on a weekday and to consider their lifestyle as much as you wish for them to consider yours.
By introducing yourself you have opened a dialog, in which mutual understanding can take place and help with disputes before it escalates.
That said you should still feel like you can live at the property and have fun. The student lifecycle is like no other, and is far from everyday life of a family. It is important to remember this.
Other than introducing yourself you should also:
You may not always get along with your housemates and you may not even know any of them if you rent a house with other tenants already established within it.
You have a few options if you find yourself in the situation of not getting on with or having disputes with your flat mates.
The first thing you can do is to ask for student services to provide mediation support in which you have a facilitated meeting with a third party chairing to find a solution or to resolve the situation.
If you do not feel that this resolves the issues then you can try to move out and find someone else to take your room. This is very important as you may otherwise still be legally binding to pay rent. The best solution is to move away from the situation if you can. Just make sure that you do not breach your contract.
You can contact Union Support for guidance here.
When you first see a property that you are thinking of renting, the landlord or agency should inform you of any deposit or agency fees which may be required from you. It is usually the landlord’s responsibility to protect your deposit and supply you with the information of how he or she intends to do this within 30 working days. A deposit is sometimes referred to as a ‘damage deposit’ or a ‘tenancy deposit’ which is a one off payment at the beginning of your tenancy agreement (usually before you move in to the property). The deposit is to ensure the landlord that certain standards are upheld during the time you are renting and to encourage you to return the property in the same condition as when you moved in. If there are particular things such as a stain on the carpet that is there when you move in, make sure the landlord or the letting agent makes a note of it on the inventory, so when you come to check out, you’re not charged for causing it.
When you wish to move out of the property your landlord should ensure that you get your full deposit back unless your landlord has to cover for damages to the property, furniture or outstanding rent. Your landlord should not deduct money to cover damage that could be regarded as fair wear and tear.
If you're an Assured Shorthold tenant and you paid your deposit on or after 6 April 2007, your landlord should have used a Tenancy Deposit protection scheme to safeguard your deposit. You should also have received information about the deposit and the scheme used to protect it. If you haven’t the landlord can be sued. The scheme will keep your money safe and makes sure you get back what you're owed at the end of your tenancy. Your deposit has to be protected even if someone else paid it for you, for example your parents or a friend. There is a number of different protection schemes in the UK (Deposit Protection Service, MyDeposits and Tenancy Deposit Scheme)
If there is a dispute about how much of the deposit you should get back at the end of your tenancy, the scheme will hold the disputed amount until the dispute is resolved. There is also an alternative dispute resolution service.
Asking for an inventory list can help you avoid disputes over your deposits when you move out of your property. When you first move in to your accommodation you should ensure that your landlord or letting agency gives you an list of inventory over what is within the property as well as one when you move out. An inventory can help you prove the state of the property when you moved in and defend any damages that may have occurred before you moved in but you may be made to pay for. It is in your landlords interest to provide you with one and will benefit both parts.
Please make sure that you check and tick of what is recorded within the inventory before you sign it. Further to this it is important that you keep a record of any repairs that may be carried out during your stay at the property. Try to be present when your landlord or letting agency will be going through the inventory list when you move out to enable you to defend yourself if your landlord points out any damages you may encounter any charges for.
First of all it is very important that you keep a record of any damages reported during your stay at the property.
Your landlord is responsible for making sure that your home meets the minimum legal standard, this includes ensuring the property is regularly maintained; for example the servicing of gas appliances and the electrical installation.
Your landlord must also carry out essential repairs to the following as and when these are required:
Your landlord must also repair damage that was caused by someone with no connection to you - for example during a break-in or vandalism, however, you must repair any damage that you, your family or your visitors have caused.
As a tenant you are responsible for minor repairs including replacing fuses, or clearing a blocked sink. When repairs are required, you must provide your landlord with reasonable access to the property to enable the repairs to be carried out.
There is no rules as to how fast a job should take, but you may have some guidelines or timeframes within your tenancy agreement. The landlord should do the repair in a reasonable time and urgency judging from the urgency of the repair needed. If you experience any problems the please contact the council who has the power to help you or contact Union Support or the University's accommodation services who will be happy to guide you.
If you are thinking of renting a property through an agency you should look in to how much they charge before you even get to rent the property.
A breakdown of all fees should be clearly visible to you in the agent’s office and on their website.
If you are an international student please bear in mind that the fees can be much higher than for U.K. Students. Many therefore try to make international students pay huge amounts of money to agencies and landlords.
The costs of renting in the U.K. can include deposits, referencing fees, credit checks, holding deposits and admin fees.
Please see below a list over different fees which you may encounter:
Referencing fees are checks which a letting agency or landlord may do to check whether or not you are going to be a good tenant. This may be by contacting a current employer or previous landlord. This can cost you between £75-£100 per tenant.
Admin fees is a fee to cover any potential admin costs. This is mainly the cost to cover the contract but can also include general admin costs related to your application in regards to inventory recording, photocopying, phone calls and key cutting.
Holding deposits can range between £200-£500 and is usually based on a calculation in relation to your rent. Depending on the amount you have to pay in rent the deposit may be higher. This is usually subtracted from your deposit, so you usually don't loose money in doing so. Tenants are not required to pay twice for deposits. However, if you for some reason cannot rent the property this will be a cost on its own.
It is important that you familiarise yourself with the responsibilities that you have as a tenant before you sign any contract and that you know what will be expected of you during your time as a tenant.
As a tenant you are expected to:
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